November 13, 1829
Sam Patch free-jumps into the Falls, dying as a result
Patch, who was reported to be around 20 years old, had been a daredevil for quite sometime and reveled in entertaining others by jumping from great heights. His fateful jump had not been his first, but rather his third, from Niagara Falls. During all three attempts, Patch did not use any protective gear, and predated the first barrel ride over the Falls by over 70 years.
His second jump brought fewer spectators than Patch was hoping for, so he constructed a platform an additional 25 feet (7.6 meters) above the Falls for extra sensationalism.
Patch ascended the platform on Friday the 13th, noticeably under the affects of alcohol. One reporter wrote, “He sprung fearlessly from [the platform] and descended about one-third of the distance, the whole being about 120 feet, as handsome as he ever did. He then evidently began to droop; his arms were extended and his legs separated: and in this condition he struck the water and sunk forever! It was a fearful leap, and fearfully has it terminated.” Another article postulated Patch lost his balance while atop the platform and fell. Whether he leapt or fell, Patch struck the water sideways rather than feet-first as he had done in the past. He never rose from the water.
Between 8,000 and 10,000 people witnessed his death, though for some months after witnesses claimed to have seen him alive and well. At least one person went as far as to write to newspapers claiming to be the young daredevil who enjoyed the attention of watching an audience witness his “death.” These rumors were put to an end when Patch’s body was found on March 16, 1830. His bones were reportedly not broken and his “face is not so greatly injured as to prevent recognition.”
His body was laid to rest in a cemetery near the location his body was found, briefly marked with a wooden board simply reading “Sam Patch — such is fame,” though a stone headstone has since replaced the board.
- Rosenberg-Naparsteck, Ruth. “The Real Simon Pure Sam Patch.” Rochester History, Rochester Public Library. Summer 1991.
- “Reminiscent of Sam Patch — His Last Jump.” The Buffalo Daily Republic [Buffalo, New York]. August 25, 1859
- Huron Reflector [Norwalk, Ohio]. April 13, 1830
- “Sam Patch.” The Horn of the Green Mountains [Manchester, Vermont]. March 29, 1830
- “Sam Patch is no more!” Cherokee Phoenix and Indians’ Advocate [New Echota, Georgia]. January 6, 1830
- The Vermont Phenix [Chester, Vermont]. January 6, 1830
- “Sam Patch’s death.” The Evening Post [New York, New York]. November 18, 1829